Lunch Box Surprises

I pack my husband’s lunch every day.

Not only is it cheaper and healthier – it’s also faster for him.

That gives him time to call me every noon.

Ulterior motives. 🙂

When I’m really on top of things I get his lunch ready in the evening so I just need to pull it out and put it in his lunch pail in the dim light of early morning.

It’s when I’m not with it that things get interesting.

Like the time I grabbed a container from the freezer thinking it was left-over lasagna. It wasn’t.

My poor husband got a frozen hunk of left-over pinto beans.

Oops.

But even when I have things prepared – my mental capacity isn’t always the best first thing in the morning.

I few weeks ago I had his lunch prepared – but I grabbed the wrong container. I sent him a frantic text at noon when I opened the fridge and saw his main dish was still inside.

I asked him what he had for lunch.

His response – the yogurt was good.

Oops.

In recent days I’ve sent him an over ripe banana, stale pretzels, and the container of left-over smoked turkey meat instead of the smoked turkey sandwiches I had made for him.

But the one he really laughed about was the plastic container of dry, uncooked noodles that I grabbed from the cupboard in the haze of early morning thinking they were peanuts.

Poor guy.

And he never complains. (Well – except for the pinto bean incident!)

He should get a medal, that man of mine.

Homemade Greek Yogurt

Have you tried the Greek yogurt that’s all over the store shelves now?

I must admit that I’m really addicted!

But buying Greek yogurt can be pricey – at least double the price of regular yogurt.  Talk about budget busting.

DSC_0004So when I discovered that the fancy pants Greek yogurt in the stores is actually just plain yogurt with some of the whey drained off – I started researching ways to make it myself.

I could buy a large container of plain yogurt and strain it – but that would only save me a few cents. I wanted a lot of yogurt -cheap.

Like $1.39 gallon of sale milk – cheap.

And easy, too!

And I found it!

All I needed was a heavy bottomed pot, a thermometer, 2 quart sized jars with lids, a small cooler, a strainer, a bowl and a dishtowel.

So far – so good.

The actual yogurt is just 8 cups of milk – any kind. Whole milk makes a really rich and creamy yogurt – but everything works right down to skim.

And 4 tablespoons plain yogurt with live and active cultures.

That’s it. No fancy weird stuff you can’t pronounce.

Put the milk in the heavy bottomed pot and heat to 180 degrees, stirring regularly so that it doesn’t scorch.

As soon as the milk comes to temperature, take it off the heat and let it cool to 110 degrees.

Then add your plain yogurt and whisk well.

DSC_0002

Pour this mixture into two quart jars and screw on the lids. Place this jars in the small insulated cooler and pour 120 degree water into the cooler until the jars are submerged nearly to their lids.

Then close the cooler, set it aside and don’t touch it for at least 6 hours. (The longer you leave it in the cooler the more tang your yogurt will have.)

Viola! Six hours later you can remove the jars and have 8 cups of perfectly set plain yogurt.

Now – to make it into Greek yogurt – place the dishtowel in the strainer and set it over a bowl. Pour the yogurt into it and put it in the fridge for several hours. (I have left it on the counter before and it was fine – but don’t tell anybody!)The whey will strain out leaving you with a thick delicious Greek style yogurt.

DSC_0003Whole milk will have less whey and leave you more yogurt while the skim will reduce up to half but will be the equivalent of the 0% fat Greek yogurt you buy at the store.

The longer you let it strain, the thicker the end product.  I’ve heard that if you let it go for 24 hours you will get a product with cream cheese consistency.  You can add a little salt or spices and spread it on a bagel.

I normally go 4-6 hours, depending on when I remember it.

Some people use the whey in their cooking – but I choose to turn it into pork chops and feed it to the pigs. 🙂

So easy!

Heat the milk. Cool the milk slightly. Mix in the yogurt as a starter. Put them in jars. Incubate in the cooler. Strain. And bingo – you just saved yourself some serious cash.

Happy day!

Paper Bag Popcorn

brown bag popcornI love popcorn. I mean, I really, really love popcorn.

I could eat it every day and sometimes do!

My favorite way to make it is on the stove in coconut oil with my vintage white mountain popcorn popper. Then I cover it in melted butter and popcorn salt and indulge.

Sometimes I even share. 😉

But – let’s admit – this way of popping popcorn does leave a bit of a mess and is slightly caloric. 🙂

While we love the ease of microwave popcorn – they are pretty expensive and I’ve heard some talk about unhealthy preservatives.

My solution? Brown bag popcorn.

I saw this on Pinterest and was skeptical – but trust me – it really works.

And it’s so simple!

Just take a brown, lunch size paper bag and pour 1/4 cup of popcorn in it. Fold over the end and put it in your microwave on high for 3-4 minutes. Just listen carefully for the popcorn to stop popping.

Done.

I told you it was easy!

Of course my kids always pour their popcorn into a bowl and cover it with melted butter and salt And then they pass the bag on to the next kid in line – because one bag can pop multiple batches of popcorn.

I just bought 100 brown paper bags for less than $2.00. With several batches per bag – that sure beats the price of regular microwave popcorn! And there’s no popcorn popper to wash.

And that my friends is a winner!

Enjoy!

Homemade Laundry Soap – Powder Version

Washing Soap

I’ve been making my own homemade liquid laundry soap since March – and really like it.

So when my friend Kimmer sent me a recipe for a powdered laundry soap a few weeks ago – I was curious.

I noticed right away that this recipe included many more ingredients than my first one.

Which got me thinking –  so what was really necessary to get our clothes clean?

I did some research on line (at Pinterest of course! ) and found that a basic laundry soap includes just three things – Borax, Washing Soda, and a bar soap (the  most common being Fels Naptha or Zote, but some even use a regular bar of Ivory soap or even a store brand).

The most basic recipe for powdered laundry soap is simple:

1 (4lb. 12 oz.) box of Borax
1 (3 lb. 7 oz.) box of Washing Soda
28 ounces of soap grated finely (this is 2 Fels Naptha bars)

Mix them together.

That’s it. Super simple. Use 1 tablespoon for a small load, 2 tablespoons for a large one.

Now – if you want to get fancy – you can also add:

1 (3 lb) Container of OxyClean- This will help with stain removal and will keep your whites whiter (I added it in this batch – and got a handy dandy scoop as an added bonus!)

1 (55 oz) Bottle of Purex Crystals Fabric Softener This will help your clothes feel softer and smell wonderful. (I did add it to this batch – my girls love the smell. It’s a nice touch if I have it on hand.)

The verdict – it was super easy to make – once the soap is grated you just have to stir everything together and you’re ready to use it. Our clothes smell clean, look clean, and there are no soap marks or detergent residue that I can see.

(Although I should admit that I have only used it in warm water loads – people claim the soap dissolves even in cold water – but I’m still a little skeptical.)

I still have my homemade liquid laundry soap on hand – same three basic ingredients, it’s just a little more involved to make it and I’m sure I could always add the Oxy-Clean and Purex Crystals to each batch if I want to.

So the big question is – liquid or powder?

Bottom line – I like them both.

It’s simply a matter of personal preference.

They both cleaned my laundry and saved me money.

And that’s what works for me!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

SoapOkay – I’m  jumping on the band wagon.

While I’ve seen recipes for homemade laundry detergent all over cyber space for some time – I never quite got my act together to make some.

Until now.

Yes – this country gal finally found the right ingredients – had them all on hand at the same time – and made a batch of laundry soap.

Believe it or not – it was easy. And uber-cheap.

My friend Kimmer sent me this recipe. She got it from her friend Cindy – who found it at Thy Hand Hath Provided.

Homemade Laundry Soap
This recipe makes 5 gallons of concentrate which equals 10 gallons of ready-to-use laundry detergent. 

1 five gallon bucket (clean and with a tight fitting lid)
a long handled spoon
an empty (used) laundry detergent container (or juice or vinegar container, clean)
hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha Laundry Soap Bar
1 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda)
1/2 cup borax

Grate the Fels Naptha laundry soap bar we used a cheese grater (Well, actually, it was Buddy who used the cheese grater. This was the most time-consuming part of the entire process making it the perfect job for an 11 year old boy. If you don’t have one – you could borrow mine- but he does eat a lot.)

Add the grated Fels Naptha to a medium sauce pan along with 4 cups of water.  Heat over medium high heat while stirring occasionally until the soap has melted completely. (The funny thing is – the grated soap looks like amazingly like grated cheese – causing some puzzled looks since we heated it up as we were making lunch!)

While it’s melting, fill your five gallon bucket half full with hot tap water. (At this point your house will be smelling very – well – soapy. Pedro commented that our house hasn’t smelled this clean since Matt got the air freshener for graduation!)

Once the bar soap has melted, add it to the bucket along with the washing soda and borax.  Stir it well until everything has dissolved.  Add hot tap water to fill the bucket and stir again.

Cover tightly with the lid and let sit overnight to thicken.  Stir well (it will gel and separate a bit).  You have just made concentrate.

When you’re ready to use it, stir the detergent well, then fill your empty detergent container half full with the concentrate.  Fill the rest of the container with water.

Shake before each use.  Use 1/4 cup per load for a front loading machine and 5/8 cup per load for a top loading machine.

 I must confess that I had trouble mixing the concentrate the next morning. It was pretty globby (is that a word?!) and I finally gave up on using a spoon and used my hands to squish the globs.
Finally I measured out enough to half- fill my empty laundry detergent container into a large container, added that much water and used my immersion blender to mix it up. Perfect!
Also – if you are needing a good bucket and lid – I would highly recommend using a 5 gallon bucket and a Gamma Seal Lid . These plastic lids fit tightly on the top of the bucket but easily screw on and off. I love them!
Happy washing!